Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero
Kano residents, for two centuries, have lived with the tradition of the grandeur with which they celebrate key Islamic festivals such as Eid-el-Kabir and Eid-el-Fitr.
Any time the occasion is approaching, they look forward to the pomp and ceremony with which the festival is celebrated, especially the durbar in which religious and traditional leaders ride horses that are often colourfully bedecked with rich fabric and a general outlook of Arabian splendour.
The horses are usually exhibited in what looks like a parade amidst pomp and decoration, even as local musicians and the king’s flutists blare out long tunes, all in praise of Allah for allowing them to witness another festival.
However, this year, the tradition will be broken for the first time in 200 years, according to investigations. The Kano Emirate last Wednesday announced the cancellation of the festival to celebrate Eid-el-Fitr that would have marked the end of Ramadan, citing the ill health of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. The emir has been on the throne for 49 years.
A statement by the emir’s palace official, Abbas Sanusi, said Bayero would not go ahead with the durbar festival, known as Hawan Sallah, because of his "fragile" health.
Sanusi, a senior councillor in the Emirate Council and the Wambai of Kano, said: “The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, has directed me to inform all district heads and traditional title holders that the traditional Sallah activities have been cancelled.”
The emir's aide urged the public to pray for Bayero’s recovery and for peace to return to Kano State.
Those close to the emirate maintained that the ill health of the emir is a major reason, supporting this with the fact that the emir had only last month returned from Britain where he had gone for medical treatment.
Sometime last month, the rumour swirled around the ancient city that the emir had died while receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom. The rumoured death of the emir had generated much anxiety among the people until it was dispelled.
Although the official reason for the cancellation has been credited to the poor health of the emir, the general belief is that security concerns may have indeed forced the cancellation of the ancient festival. Those who believe this version cite the cancellation, earlier in the week, of the devotional retreat which usually takes place towards the end of Ramadan, for security reasons.
The retreat usually called "i'tikaf", is often observed by some people who spend the last 10 days of the Ramadan fasting season in solitude exclusively praying in mosques.
Ever since the dreaded Boko Haram struck in Kano last January, killing over 160 people, groups and religious organisations have become more circumspect about holding events that will lead to huge gatherings.
The emir under normal circumstances, not only rides a horse for three days during the festival, he traditionally celebrates the traditional Hawan Sallah, Hawan Daushe, Hawan Nasarawa and Hawan Dorayi during the Eid-el-Fitr and Eid-el-Kabir. This, he has done, for the over four decades he has been on the throne. And it has always attracted so many people — natives and even tourists to Kano wanting to see the emir atop his horse, in a celebratory mood.
Thousands of people, mainly Muslims from the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group, normally attend the durbar ceremony, which ought to have taken place this weekend.
Expectedly, the cancellation has caused much disappointment in Kano. A Kano indigene, Mallam Abdullahi Usman, who spoke to THISDAY, in lamenting the cancellation, said: “Each year, my day get made when I see the emir riding a horse. But this year, my hope for such a day has been turned into hopelessness. This year, I will celebrate my Sallah in bad mood because my joy and pride usually is to see the emir and his lieutenants riding horses.”
However, a trader on the Emir Palace Road, Mallam Isa Ahmed, said: "This cancellation has links with the security challenges being faced in the state.” According to him, the cancellation is meant to discourage people from wild celebration on that day.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that several other emirates that used to observe flamboyant ceremonies are reviewing the scope of their celebrations or considering an outright cancellation to forestall any security breach.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out a spate of bombings in many states of Northern Nigeria, targeting government and religious buildings. It has vowed to attack all those opposed to its strand of sectarian faith—be they Muslims or Christians. Over 20 persons were killed in its latest attack at a Deeper Life Bible Church in Okene, Kogi State.
The group, has insisted on making Islam a compulsive religion in Nigeria, and that every tie with western values and education should be discontinued. It recently asked President Goodluck Jonathan to convert to Muslim and resign his office, as a condition for cessation of hostilities.